Taking Up Space at Black Girl Festival

Black Girl Festival, the first festival celebrating Black women and girls in the UK, returned for a third year on Saturday 12th October and welcomed 3000 attendees to take cover from the rain and take up space in the Business Design Centre.

In line with this year’s theme of ‘Taking Up Space’ the venue was quick to fill, people streaming in from the tube station only to join a growing queue, buzzing with anticipation, that led to programme collection.

From masterclasses, talks, and performances to drop-in workshops and a vast marketplace, the festival doors were open to a variety of activities designed for guests to spend the day engaging with a community of Black women.

The excitement could be felt from start to finish. Workshop tables saw crowds gather whilst the ground floor was constantly abuzz with people navigating the stalls showcasing Black-owned businesses where goodies were bought, and conversations were struck.

Throughout the day, countless talks and panels were covering a range of topics such as beauty, policy, the academy, disability, finance, art and so much more, which made time fly by and kept us all enthralled.

These were the highlight for me as they encapsulated the importance of our presence in the room. For black women, particularly in academic and professional environments, it is common to find that the people we are surrounded by, who are often doing the talking and/or are the subject of discussion, are white.

Curated for us, by us, the festival facilitated conversations that centred the experiences of Black women. It created a safe space to share and learn, to feel seen and heard, allowing both speakers and audience members to communicate openly about and without the added hurdles many of us grow accustomed to in our day to day lives as people with marginalised identities.

Having these conversations can be extremely cathartic, and often include many moments of recognition, affirmation and joy too – which helps to lift the pressures we often carry, and in our mmm’s of agreement, applause, and laughter, we remind each other that we are not alone.

As an English student interested in creative industries, it was a joy to listen to writers, Daniellé Dash and Dorothy Koomson, discuss Toni Morrison and her legacy.

Yaba Badoe explored storytelling and her creative journey, sharing with the audience her invaluable knowledge and experience.

The conversation between writer Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Margaret Busby, the UK’s first Black woman publisher, about how she made her start and continues to produce the work she does, was captivating and particularly motivating for those interested in the industry, who were asked to raise their hands and encouraged to pursue that path.

Seeing Black women take the stage, showcase their businesses, and lead workshops for the thousands of us lucky enough to attend was incredibly empowering. The festival makes space for Black British women to open up discussions and doors, encouraging its audience to keep dreaming big and making moves.

The celebratory and radical one-day festival, founded by the incredible duo Nicole Crentsil and Paula Akpan, proves year after year that representation and visibility can be incredibly instrumental and influential for inspiring Black women, when done with care and intention.

I hope my snapshots and summary were able to provide some insight into the experience.

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